It always has and always will make me a little sad to see fish with mouth damage. Unfortunately this is a largely unavoidable side effect of angling in such a densely populated area. If I lived right up in the highlands or possibly on a reed island deep in the broads I feel sure I probably would never see such things, but here in the very centre of England there is enough anglers actively fishing to keep a substantial amount of fishery owners clad in barbour, and with so many anglers, angling accidents will always happen. Whether it is a poorly made rig that cracks off mid cast or just the ubiquitous unseen snag, the fact remains that baited hooks get left in lakes and they continue fishing even if no one is attached to them.
I have to believe that it is accidents that cause these hideous injuries to the fish I love because if I did not, so much anger would well up inside me at the thought that these injuries were avoidable that I would probably have a 'falling down' moment before never fishing again.
Though this said, the thing that caused me to write this blog does have a slightly tainted yet happy ending, I think.
Not long into my latest tench foray I had a timid run on a rod fished way out into the early starting lake I have been fishing on. The fight was as exactly as I would of expected for a tench of this size. The fish itself seemed perfectly normal until it came to the net cord, and just as it did I got a view of a very odd face. It was like when a human shaves off their eyebrows and it changes their face, and you can't for a moment reason why this is until you realise it's the one tiny element missing that makes them look odd.
Something was missing from this fish which made it look from a little way off like it only had half a head. It wasn't until I got it on the mat and took a close up gander that its lack of bottom lip became obvious. Now it's not a common sight on this lake, and the moment I saw it something clicked in my mind. I had seen somewhere before a fish with a terrible injury not that different to this. I can't for the life of me remember if it was Roger or Baz who caught it, but sometime in the last two years one of them landed a tench whose mouth had been split down the middle by what looked like a tethered rig. Seeing this fish I wonder if it might be the same one all healed up, and in the best possible way I hope it is, as at the time of seeing that picture of that injured tench, I remember thinking 'that fish will never make it'. But if it is the same one she was obviously feeding quite well and considering her lack of lower lip she was in great condition.
I feel kind off ungrateful saying this but somewhere in my mind I hoped the suns warming rays would be shaded off the water by the promised impending cloud cover. I know we need the sun to warm the water and I know we have just spent months whining about the cold, but I was feeling a little selfish on this trip as it was my only chance to fish for a few days, and the water warming could wait a few more hours whilst I fished, for all I cared.
I did get into a couple more fish before the sun got very bright and the very last fish to snaffle my critically balanced bait was hugely long female that I again thought I recognised it. Last year I saw the bailiff of this water, a man now simply known as Blakey, catch a fish that looked very similar to mine with practically the same worn down tail, at around seven pounds. The only thing that puts doubt in my mind is the weight difference. Because on my practically new and very much checked scales it weighed 5.1lb. Even given that she was exceptionally lean all over I not sure if a tench is capable of being almost two pounds lighter just after winter than it was in the middle of last summer.
Identification and weight quandries aside, this was still my biggest tench of the year so far and one I wouldn't mind catching again in around, mmm... the start of June would be nice.